Rob Ambrose took over the head coaching job at his alma mater, Towson University, with his sights set on turning around a program that had been struggling to become relevant in one of the nation's toughest FCS leagues. Last season, the promise of that turnaround seemed to come to fruition when Ambrose lead the Tigers to the playoffs for the first time since the university joined Division I in 1987.
Apparently, Ambrose accomplished that turnaround with tough-love approach highlighted by an event known as "Villanova Sunday." On that event, after a particularly bad loss to the Wildcats, Ambrose "emptied his arsenal of running drills" on a team that he felt wasn't taking their responsibilities seriously enough.
Now Ambrose is being accused of mistreating players by two former players in a story corroborated by the campus newspaper, the Towerlight's investigation.
The former players (one anonymous) authored a letter that was published in the Towerlight, detailing some of the accused abuses. They write that Ambrose has, "openly disrespected and mistreated members of the team on a consistent basis," along with his defensive coordinator, Matt Hachmann. Among the infractions was an accusation that he offended Christian players by saying, "I do not care what your religion is. I do not care if I offend anyone. But even if Jesus and his disciples come in here on Saturday, we are going to fuck them up and get them the fuck out of here."
He is also accused of threatening to "ruin lives" of players to prevent them from being able to transfer elsewhere, and forcing the team to practice and attend meetings for more hours than are normally allowed.
According to the Towerlight:
Ambrose sent a text message to the team Wednesday Oct. 24 that read "If you knowingly or unknowingly signed Trevor’s petition and you regret it you need to come forward before your name is published. There will be no punishment."
The NCAA puts limits on the amount of hours a team can ask players to spend in practice or team meetings and coaches like Ambrose are often required to submit logs of those hours spent to the school's compliance officers to ensure that the regulations are being met. The Towerlight's investigation has shown that the logs submitted to the compliance office show fewer hours spent practicing than the schedules given to players.
The school's Chief of Staff for the President's office claimed that an investigation of the matter had been conducted and that no issues were observed.
"The investigation included but was not limited to: unplanned practice observations, review of football student-athlete exit-interviews, and sports medicine reports," the statement reads. "No findings suggested that the well-being and welfare of our student-athletes were placed in jeopardy. We will continue to uphold the values of the institution and appreciate the department of Athletics swift action to address this student-athlete’s concern."
The school's Athletics Director also claimed that a department investigation was conducted and no improprieties found.
Still, the accusations include the suggestion that some players were considering leaving the team over the allegedly poor treatment. One of those players may be sophomore running back Terrence West, who won last season's inaugural Jerry Rice Award as the best freshman player in FCS football. He also received All-America honors last season. Nonetheless, he sat out last weekend against a powerhouse Old Dominion team.
According to the paper, shortly after the game he tweeted, "It’s been good Towson !!!!!," sparking rumors that he will be leaving the football program (and perhaps the school). West refused to comment on the tweet and Ambrose denied that he had left the program.
Whether or not these allegations will have an effect on this weekend's homecoming game at Villanova remains to be seen.